Arresting the former deputy ‚prime minister‘ of the Taleban apparently needed less than rocket science. Pakistani intelligence sources also confirm that the arrests of Maulawi Kabir and Mulla Baradar foremost serve Pakistani interests, both with regard to urgently needed financial resources and possibly to the strengthening of an old ally, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. A guest blog by Willi Germund(1)
‘Find Maulawi Abdul Kabir, the Taleban’s ex-governor of Nangahar province.‘ When a UN official in Kabul was given this task, George W. Bush was still President in Washington and General Pervez Musharraf ruled from Islamabad. A few weeks later, the official had completed his job. Maulawi Kabir, an active member of the 15-member(2) Leadership Council, the highest body of the Afghan Taleban, was living in a beautiful house close to the Pakistani town of Nowshera in the North West Frontier Province and placidly driving around in a posh SUV with a diplomatic number plate.
Two weeks ago, also the Pakistani intelligence service ISI ‚suddenly‘ found Kabir and arrested him.
Since then, Pakistanis, diplomats and other observers wonder why Islamabad‘s authorities suddenly move against Taleban leaders. A plausible answer came from a Pakistani intelligence officer in the frontier city of Peshawar. ‘For us, the arrest has two advantages: We punish people who want to betray Pakistan, and at the same time we can obtain the trust of the US. We have nursed and fed them [the Taleban] – and now some of them want to dine with Hamed Karzai at the presidential table in Kabul‘ says the man who does not want to see his name printed.
Apart from Kabir, the intelligence officer hints at Mulla Abdul Ghani alias Mulla Baradar, the Taleban’s military chief and number two(3). Up to his arrest in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, he was the most important contact and dialogue partner of the Afghan government amongst the Islamist militia.
The wave of arrests also pays out financially for Pakistan. After Baradar and Kabir landed behind bars, 349 million US dollar were received at an account of the Pakistani National Bank from Washington – for ‚costs accrued during the war against terrorism‘ that had been blocked before.
Police officials in Karachi confirm the relation between dollars and arrests in economically stricken Pakistan: ‘The FBI and perhaps also the CIA have established offices in many towns and we were tasked from Islamabad to cooperate with them. Otherwise, the promised money would not flow.’
In the case of the arrest of Mulla Abdul Salam, Taleban shadow governor of Kunduz, and his colleague Mir Muhammed from neighbouring Baghlan, there is an additional advantage; both were captured in Akora Khattak, a town at the road linking Islamabad and Peshawar. On one hand, this was an effective hit against the Taleban infrastructure in the provinces under the German regional ISAF command. On the other hand, another rebel leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who origines in this area and maintains strong contacts with Kabul, might be able to use the newly created vacuum. This would be convenient for Islamabad because this would lead to the emergence of a strong Pashtun counterweight to the ‘Northern Alliance‘ seen as pro-Indian by Islamabad and President Karzai.
Pakistani intelligence sources, however, deny newspaper reports and information from the UN in Kabul that meanwhile half of the 15 Quetta Shura members were behind bars. (See: Anand Gopal, ‘Half of Afghanistan Taliban leadership arrested in Pakistan’, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 Feb. 2010 here and Deb Riechmann/Munir Ahmad, ‘Pakistani officials: Nearly 15 top Taliban held’, AP 25 Feb. 2010 here.)
(According to those reports, also Mulla Abdul Qayum Zaker, a former Guantanamo detainee turned Taleban commander for Southern Afghanistan, former Kandahar governor Mulla Muhammad Hassan, former Kabul corps commander Mulla Abdul Ra’uf, Mulla Ahmad Jan Akhundzada and former Zabul shadow governor Muhammad Yunos had been arrested. AAN, however, received information that at least the information about Mulla Zaker and Mulla Ra’uf is incorrect. The description ‚Akhunzada Popalzai, also known as Mohammad Younis’ in the AP article seems to be a confusion of two persons: Akhundzada is Ahmad Jan, Muhammad Yunos is not a Popalzai but a Tokhi from Kandahar province. See Abdul Awwal Zabulwal, ‘Taliban in Zabul: A Witness’ Account’, in: Antonio Giustozzi (ed.), Decoding the New Taliban, London 2009.)
A case filed by a certain Khalid Khawaja before a Lahore court supports the Pakistani disclaimer. The former ISI agent today is active as a supporter of the Afghan Taleban. The judges followed his appeal to stop the already agreed deportation of Mulla Baradar and Maulawi Kabir to Kabul. Also Ameer Muawiya, a commander of foreign Taleban in Waziristan, and Mulla Seyyed Tayyeb Agha, a close assistant to Taleban leader Mulla Omar, remain held in ledge by Pakistan.
This blog was published first as an article in Swiss daily ‘St. Galler Tagblatt’ on 2 March 2010 (see the German original here).
(1) Willi Germund is a correspondent for various German, Austrian and Swiss newspapers who has been travelling to Afghanistan and Pakistan regularly since 1996. He frequently contributes guest blogs to AAN.
(2) Some sources assume that this council has (or had) 12 members. It is not clear whether and how vacant seats (by arrest or death) are filled.
(3) This depends on how one counts. Mulla Obaidullah, who was Taleban defence minister during their government (1996-2001) is one – and the more senior – deputy of Taleban leader Mulla Muhammad Omar. This would make Mulla Baradar, who was a deputy minister under him, the Taleban number three, after Mulla Omar and Obaidullah.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020